2002 Number 15 Resort in North America: Heavenly, California

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Heavenly is not a good place to spend a day. Two days isn't even enough. To see and ski it all (it sits in two states after all, California and Nevada) may take three or four. "Huge, huge," a reader comments. "You never run out of fresh runs." Another, who apparently tried to hit all corners of the 20-square-mile ski area in one day, says this: "Crazy layout; just getting around wears you out." It's best to pick a section, Lower California or Middle Nevada, for example, ski there one day, then move on to another section the next. Heavenly is most famous for its panoramic views and its treeskiing. Two new, yet-to-be-named glade runs on Dipper Knob in Upper Nevada will open this season. There are literally miles of gentle cruisers, like 2.2-mile Stagecoach Run. Then there are Mott and Killebrew Canyons, 1,600 vertical feet of 40-degree chutes. "Killebrew," observes one steeps junkie, "pumps adrenaline like a triple-shot latte." In 2000, Heavenly installed one of the world's longest gondolas. It transports skiers from the city's casino core to a high ridge overlooking Lake Tahoe and Carson Valley, Nevada. For 2001, Heavenly's new Adventure Park will feature cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, tubing and snow toys, as well as ski-school programs. The resort is heaven for families and groups who can't agree on exactly what they want. Skiers and boarders are all but guaranteed their heart's desire, while non-skiers can dabble in the snow, shop, gamble and be entertained by headliners in casino hotels like Harrah's. What more could anyone want?

WHAT'S NEW The Carver's Paradise program gives early birds morning access to the mountain 30 minutes before the general public. A personal coach takes you out to float in new powder or slice corduroy. Price: $28.

A GOOD DEAL Purchase two days' skiing and two nights' lodging and get a third night free. Starts at $179 per person; 800-243-2836.

MEDALS GOLD Challenge, Après-Ski, Off-Hill Activities, Scenery; SILVER Terrain, Lifts, Weather, Access, Lodging, Dining.

HIGH/LOW RANK Après-Ski (3), Scenery (3), Off-Hill Activities (4); Family Programs (51), Service (54), Value (66).

DON'T MISS Tuesday Oyster nights at the Fresh Ketch, South Lake Tahoe's marina restaurant. Half shells and oyster shooters for $1.

READER REMARKS (+) "Never run out of fresh runs." "Best view from any resort in the U.S."
(-) "Awkward lift layout." "Too much traversing."